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5 Crucial Things To Know Before Cutting Hair at Home

Let’s talk about cutting hair at home!

I’d be willing to bet that you’re here because you or someone you know needs a haircut, and you can’t get into the salon… right?

80-something-percent of salons are currently closed (at the time of writing this post), and there’s a slim chance you’ll be getting in to see your hairstylist any time soon.

Who knows when non-essential businesses will be back up, and even when they do… you can bet that everyone and their mom will be booking appointments.

Or I guess it’s even possible that you live in a post-apocalyptic world, and just need a haircut pronto. Either way, this guide will help you.

So put down the kitchen scissors, and let’s talk about a few things you need to know before doing irreparable damage.

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If you're about to attempt cutting your own hair at home, you need to learn a few things first. Don't worry... this ultimate guide covers what you need to know!

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The Guide to Cutting Hair At Home

Before we go any further, I want you to know that I’m a licensed cosmetologist with over nine years of professional experience in the hair industry. And today, I want to teach you a thing or two about cutting hair at home!

Of course, I always suggest seeing a hairstylist for more complicated styles, but with the right knowledge, you should be able to do some basic upkeep while the salons are closed.

The five things we’ll cover in this guide are:

  1. Necessary Tools
  2. Using a Guide
  3. Sectioning
  4. Tension
  5. Elevation

All five of these things are imperative to your success, so pay close attention!

Tip #1: Use The Right Tools

Close-up of hands holding comb and cutting hair with shears.

First things first.. put down the kitchen scissors. They’re meant to cut food, not hair.

I know, I know… you might be thinking that there isn’t much difference… after all, they are scissors, right? Wrong. They’re totally different.

First off, they aren’t nearly as sharp as hair cutting shears… and they also have much bigger blades.

What this means is that they’ll push and smash your hair before cutting it… leading to an uneven cut and split ends.

Please promise me you’ll get the right shears… you can even use cheap shears (like these), as long as you use scissors that were designed to cut hair.

If you’re looking to do a clipper cut, I’d recommend using a professional clipper kit like this one. Like scissors, sharper blades will give you a cleaner cut, and it’s nice to have the different guards on hand.

Tip #2: Follow A Guide

Close-up of cutting hair with shears.

You’re like, “but isn’t that what I’m doing right now?

Yes, you are following my guide to cutting hair at home, but that’s not the guide I’m talking about. I’m talking about first cutting a small section of hair and following it throughout the rest of your haircut.

This video by Sam Villa Hair Tutorials explains what guides are and how they work.

I do recommend sticking with a stationary guide unless you feel confident in your foundational haircutting skills.

If you’re looking to cut all your hair to the same length, start by sectioning it into four equal sections. Drop one inch of hair around the bottom of your hairline. Cut this small section of hair to the desired length.

This is your stationary guide.

One by one, continue dropping small sections of your hair and cutting them to match the guide until all of your hair has been cut.

While it’s a little bit of extra work, this process ensures a clean, precise haircut. …which brings us to the next tip…

Tip #3: Sectioning Matters

Close-up of woman cutting off her split ends with shears.

Sectioning hair is super important, so you can control the hair and see where you’re cutting. As I previously mentioned, it’s common practice to section the hair into four sections (parting down the middle and each side).

When dropping subsections, make sure they’re small enough to see the guide through them. If you can’t see the guide, they’re too thick.

When dealing with really thick hair, you might need to take smaller subsections. On the other hand, you can take bigger subsections with thinner, fine hair.

The general rule of thumb is to stick with one-inch subsections. I recommend using duckbill clips to keep the other hair in place as you cut.

Tip #4: Be Mindful of Elevation

Woman getting ready to cut her own hair.

It’s so important that you make sure to hold each section of hair at the same elevation and angle. Even a tiny bit of elevation to one section will make your haircut choppy and crooked.

Basically, elevating the sections of hair causes it to be different lengths… which is where layering comes from.

Shannel Mariano made this AMAZING video that shows you what happens when you elevate hair.

While this video makes it look really easy to cut layers, just know that there’s much more to it than what you see here. Hairstylists have a ton of experience creating layered haircuts.

So please promise me you won’t try to cut your own hair like this.

I just want you to be aware that elevating hair will change the shape of your haircut. If you want a straight line, it’s best to let the hair fall as it naturally does.

Tip #5: Watch Your Tension

Woman cutting her own bangs with shears.

Tension has to do with how tightly you hold the hair in place, and like elevation, it can change your whole haircut.

For instance, if you pull one section down with a lot of tension, but don’t add any tension to the next section, the two sections won’t be even. Again this will lead to a choppy, uneven haircut.

Make sure to use equal tension throughout the haircut. If you’re just trimming your hair at home, I suggest letting the hair fall as it typically does and cut without tension.

With curly hair, it’s essential to use really light tension. If you pull the curls out to cut them, the haircut will be super crooked when they bounce back. This is why it’s so important to cut the hair where it falls.

The Hairdresser’s Guide To Cutting Your Own Hair and Not Ruining It

Brad Mondo is one of my favorite hair bloggers, and he recently came out with a killer tutorial on how to cut your hair at home.

If you’re brave enough to attempt it, make sure to follow his steps exactly as he gives them to you. Even one tiny variation can ruin your entire haircut.

If you’re looking for a shorter men’s cut, this easy tutorial by Alpha M should do the trick.


FAQ Icon
How can I cut my own hair at home?

It really depends on what type of haircut you’re looking for. Short, clipper cuts are really easy for men to do on themselves. Longer hair takes a little skill and practice, but learning the right techniques will definitely help!

Can you use regular scissors to cut your hair?

I would strongly advise against this. Even if your scissors are sharp enough to actually cut the hair, the blades are too big. This might push the hair out before cutting, giving you an uneven haircut.

What happens if you cut your hair in a ponytail?

It depends on where the ponytail is placed and how much tension is in the ponytail. Overall, it will give you a layered look, but there is still a right and wrong way to cut your hair like this. If not done correctly, it can result in uneven, choppy, or way-too-short layers.

Should I cut hair wet or dry?

Again, it depends on what type of haircut you’re trying to achieve… but I feel like it would be best to cut your own hair when it is straight and dry.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts Icon

Cutting hair at home really isn’t bad if you know what you’re doing. Using the right tools and techniques will definitely up your DIY hair game.

Of course, I always recommend seeing a hairstylist if the option is available, and never attempting a complicated new style on yourself.

… but a little TLC and upkeep never hurt anyone.

Until next time,


YOUR TURN: Are you going to attempt cutting hair at home? Do you have any extra tips I should add? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below! 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼


👉🏼If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to save it to your Hair Tips board on Pinterest!👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼

If you're about to attempt cutting your own hair at home, you need to learn a few things first. Don't worry... this ultimate guide covers what you need to know!

Olivia Jensen

Wednesday 22nd of April 2020

I just found your site today and have tons bookmarked for easy reference I've found like every hair questions ever answered. I used to be stuck in monotonous bleaching and frying of my hair but 10 years later after ditching the habit and going black and actually having hair that can grow like crazy, my bangs grew out and I'd been trimming them just fine but after I had my son I waited to long and have completely lost the bangs. I was going to have them done at the salon the day before quarantine (I'm in Washington state of course ) I'm having issues with finding my face shape and all the help I've got is heart square round oblong and I'm just like is there a professional I could just ask lol can I send a picture of my face to get a professional opinion on the shape so I can further do my bangs ??

Hollee Wood

Saturday 25th of April 2020

Also, I'm glad to hear that your hair is doing much better! And thank you for the kind words :)

Hollee Wood

Saturday 25th of April 2020

Yeah, I can help if you want to send a pic to :)